"It's all in the details."
You hear this quote tossed around pretty often and I think it's true. Details, I've discovered, are one of the main reasons I travel - the leaves on palm trees perfectly spaced out in succession on a road you're driving; the fine-tuned blue of the geysers that erupted in Iceland; and in Barcelona, the intricate party of colors in the tiles and mosaic of Parc Güell .
I went to Barcelona solely for one reason: to see the Casa Batlló. I learned about it during an art history class I took in high school and fell in love with how much it reminded me of "The Rainbow Fish," a book I read in my childhood. I loved the blues and greens of the exterior, how the roof looked like the metallic scale of a fish, and the balconies that reminded me of skulls.
Days 1 & 2: Casa Batlló / La Sagrada Familia / Parc Güell / Badalona Marina & Badalona Beach / Mercado de la Boqueria / Boat stay / Sunrise on the beach
To my dismay, my visit to the actually city of Barcelona didn't spark me as much as I thought it would. The city's two heartthrobs - the Casa Batllo and La Sagrada Familia - were swarming with so many tourists it reminded me of a foreign body getting engulfed and swallowed by a macrophage in the body (there's some nerdy nurse for ya). I couldn't appreciate the Casa Batlló for what it was partially because there were too people around to allow me to get into my own zone, and because it felt so artificial. It was, in fact, man-made. But it didn't have the feel of authenticity that I imagined it would when Antonio Gaudi envisioned it, probably because of all the headsets with headphones, signs, and ticket stand outside that occupied every orifice. Because of this experience, I didn't even want to step foot into Sagrada Familia. Not to mention admission tickets were so darn expensive! I know people say you really have to go in, but I couldn't. Instead, I opted to check out the local vendors across the street. Mike and I enjoyed a coffee at a local café. That gave me the vibes more than either place did.
What did give me goosebumps, though, was Parc Güell. This was the least anticipated attraction on my list, but it made me feel like a little kid again. Unlike the last two places, the park felt like a place where there should be lots of people, and so that really added to the environment filled with local musicians playing in courtyards and on the walking trails. I loved all the greenery and spottings of flowers. What drew me to Barcelona in the first place was the wackiness of Casa Batlló, but I was surprised to find the same feature in Parc Güell. Some parts of the park have oddly shaped walls, misshapen ceilings, and organic, asymmetrical columns. The highlight of Barcelona city itself for me, personally, was the detailing on the benches.
Designed by Gaudi in collaboration with other artists, the bench's layout is in the shape of a sea serpent. The mosaic technique used to decorate the bench itself is call trencadis, which uses broken tile shards to create a pattern. Walking along the bench reminded me of a similar experience I had when I got to see Claude Monet's "Water Lilies" series in a museum in Paris - the objective of the painting is to walk along the wall in a oblong room observing a medley of water lilies as the background grew darker and darker. Eventually, the painting would go from light to dark, and the viewer would feel as if he or she just had the real-life experience of walking down a river by some water lilies, lost in thought until it the sun set and it was dark out. At Parc Guell, you could feel the colors jump out at you as you went from one end to the other. The details created bursts of joy as you went along. It was magical.
Luckily, my stay in Barcelona didn't last long and the second third of our trip took place in the mountainside near the monastery of Montserrat. Mike and I stayed at an AirBnb with a gorgeous, expansive view of a mountain, relaxing lawn and hammock, and sweet swimming pool for a post-hike swim. We hiked up and down the mountain to get to the monastery, which was, pretty figuratively, like climbing up to heaven. The monastery is quiet and isolated with beautiful chambers embedded in gold for prayer. Candles can be purchased and lit and placed in a hallway for people who travel from all over the world to visit such a sacred space. The idea that people traveled so much just to pray was pretty special. I am by no means a religious person, but the fact that people can feel so close to God and be passionate to go that far was something I could respect and appreciate.
The last leg of our trip was camping (glamping?) in Besalu, Spain. We explored the medieval towns of Girona and Santa Pau and took pictures of the stars at night. It's crazy feeling lost in the middle of no where with someone you love, fighting to get the best shots of the starry night sky. Our campground had a bar close by with the most intense red-orange leaves. Perfect way to break into fall snuggled up in an oversized sweater, sitting under a blanket of foliage, and sipping on homemade brew and coffee.
Overall, a quick, short trip to a quirky, eccentric city. Can't wait until the next one.
I don't like the word "perfect." Nothing can ever be perfect, and my recent weekend trip to Acadia National Park was filled with flaws from imperfect planning, shaky weather conditions, the inability to locate wood for a reasonable price at an unreasonable time, and our campfire not starting from time to time. But if you disregard these minute factors, or take them as they are, I bet I could convince you that this weekend was actually perfect.
Let's just start by saying I went with two of my best guys. Even if you just left it at that, it's a weekend worth remembering because if you have true pals those true pals could make you forget you're having a shitty time - no matter how whack a party could be, how disgusting the weather is, the laughs trump all. You forget the dreary circumstances.
We left for Acadia National Park on Friday, stopped by an awesome Louisiana boil restaurant in Stoneham, Massachusetts for late lunch/dinner called Loui Loui (don't front, I know all you Asians back at home know where this place is). We left late and, needless to say, arrived pretty late to Blackwoods Campground. Forced to set up our tents in the dark, we had a short fire, drank some beers and called it a night.
The next day is where all the magic happened:
Cliff Diving at Long Pond. Well, in my case, cliff jumping? For those of you who don't know, I didn't know how to swim until about a month and a half ago. I know - shameful. It started to really get to me because my travels were sometimes hindered by the fact that I couldn't swim. Just to let you in on a little secret: when I went to Mexico and swam the cenotes, I needed a life jacket!, :(. I was so disappointed in myself that I took adult swim lessons in Boston until I got fairly comfortable with the water. Fast forward a month a half later, I never imagined I'd do something as absurd as cliff jumping. It was a short cliff, but still.
Hiking the Beehive Trail, Gorham Mountain, Ocean Path Trail. These hikes are super short and connected, which made for the perfect casual day hike. They weren't challenging at all, but fun as fuck. For example, the Beehive trail is steep at the top with limited space to step before the summit, so you have to be careful with your footing. Despite being around 500+ feet, the Beehive and Gorham summits delivered spectacular views.
Sand Beach. We ended our hiking adventures on the beach. The water was freezing, but such a nice way to cool off for the rest of the day after sweating a ton.
Bar Harbor Lobster Company. Late lunch with fish n' chips, lobster rolls, and a giant crab cake sandwich. So good!
Sunset at Cadillac Mountain. I've seen my share of sunsets in my short life, but this was easily the best sunset yet. Usually when you enjoy a sunset, the other views surrounding you are 'meh'. I felt trapped in a 360 degree panorama of dreaminess. To my three o'clock was this hazy, periwinkle sky with subtle hues of the rainbow just above the water; my six o'clock was a cascade of big, green trees layered perfectly alongside the face of the mountain; my nine o'clock was a dip between the mountain and what I thought was some hill into a valley with a warm blue sky not yet touched by the sun's setting light; and my twelve o'clock, of course, the most intense coral-red sunset. It cast such a nice pink over the rocks from where we were standing. And to make it even more visual for you, there was a strip of cloud to the right of the sun, dissecting the sky into two parts: above the cloud was still clear blue sky, as if the day had just started, and right below it was the majesty of the highlighter red/pink colors emanating from the sun as it went down. Ugh! I can't even tell you how lovely the entire thing was.
Milky Way Gazing and Shooting Star Spotting at Sand Beach. After the sunset, we packed up our chairs and headed back to the beach, perched our seats in the sand, and literally just sat for an hour, gazing up at the stars. The last time I saw stars inundating the sky like that was during my service trip to Vietnam with my peers and mentor. Mike has always wanted to see the Milky Way, and none of us expected to see it this trip but there it was, so matter-of-factly, a faint ghost-like strip softly slashing the sky in a perfect diagonal. The tide was thrashing against the shore, and I could see and feel the tips of the trees behind me when I looked up as if they were protecting us from whatever was behind us. Do you know how small and unremarkable I felt? All this endlessness out there, and I was sitting at the heart of it with two of the best people in my life. Writing and recreating all these pieces in my head makes me tear up because I know it would be rare to have a moment like that again. To top it off, Don brought his bluetooth speaker so we were blasting Bon Iver's "Holocene." I saw nine shooting stars that night. The last one was the best one, leaving an ephemeral streak of dark reddish-orange in the sky.
Some of the lyrics from Holocene go like this:
"And at once I knew,
I was not magnificent.
And I could see for miles, miles, miles."
Literally, how perfect and fitting! We felt tiny. Not even like a mere speck in the universe. Surrendering to all of this and just taking a breath and not worrying about my next night shift and all the drama of the world that can fill your day was pure serenity. We could have stayed there all night if we could, but ended the night with more beers, hot dogs, and bad food.
The next day we stopped by Portland, Maine to check out downtown. Got more seafood at Portland Lobster Company, tried out a new coffee joint at Bard Coffee, and sampled some beers and got some sick gear at Shipyard Brewery.
Now we're home and back to normalcy. Easily one of my favorite moments in life, ever.
Hot air balloon ride has been on bucket list for a while now. Finally got the chance to go yesterday in Salem, New Hampshire. Skimming tree tops at sunrise, being eye-level with the birds, and seeing the fog settle out over the landscape first thing in the morning was absolutely serene. My favorite part was waving at people underneath us as we wafted through the sky and over the ponds. Oh, and the crash landing in someone's backyard with horses who went completely crazy from all the commotion.
I'm starting to accept that you don't need to travel far to find adventure. After much reflection, I learned something incredibly important about myself, and that is even if I traveled all the countries of the world I would still be unsatisfied. This constant crave for newness, challenge, and unexplored territory is a gift and a curse; a gift in the sense that I will forever be a go-getter, but a curse in the sense that this is an impossible feat. Day in and day out, I'm becoming more comfortable with the life I've been given, the places I'm able to go, the things I'm allowed to do, and the people I can have these experiences with. There's no need to rush the life you are given. And if that means my next adventure is right around the corner or next door, so be it.
About two or three years ago I was browsing my Tumblr feed when I stumbled upon one of the most breath-taking pictures of nature I'd ever seen. It was a professional photograph of Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona. The colors were so exaggerated and vibrant that I knew I had to witness it for myself in person. I knew it was a picture that had been digitally retouched, so the colors were probably a little off. But I needed to know for myself, and so I tucked this trip away in the back of my mind, waiting for the right moment to go.
The right moment came when one of my best and most adventurous, out-going friends decided to go, too. We'd fly into Las Vegas and drive out to Arizona. Our trip almost didn't happen because our departure flight got canceled (lesson learned, don't ever opt for a budget airline ever again). Between the fiasco of buying, canceling, and repurchasing flights the night we were supposed to fly out, we didn't think our trip would come to fruition. But we were determined to fly out, as our minds were set on doing a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon.
Long story short, we made it! Here's a breakdown of our trip:
Day 1. Flew into Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. Rented our car. Got lunch at BurGR (Gordon Ramsay's burger joint). Checked into our Airbnb. Took a swim in the pool to cool off (it was over 100 degrees). Drove to Bass Pro Shops to buy bear spray (that store is so cool, it's like a museum and an REI joined together with an aquarium). Got ready and headed out to the Strip. Went on a ferris wheel ride, High Roller, with an all-you-can-drink open bar and amazing view of Vegas lights. Saw the water show in front of Caesars Palace. Got late night at Hash House A Go Go at the LINQ (BOMB food and pancakes twice the size of our heads). Went home and knocked out for an early drive to Arizona the next morning.
Day 2. Woke up early and made the two and a half hour drive to Zion National Park. Hiked the Emerald Pools trail. Got back in the car and drove another two and half hours to the Grand Canyon. Ate dinner, got ready for our rim-to-rim overnight hike. Packed our bags. Here are the details for our hike below. Keep in mind we took a break every hour to stay hydrated!:
Things we packed: At least 3 liters of water / Gatorade / Electrolyte replacement tablets / Protein bars and snacks / Bear spray (we were hoping this would come in handy with mountain lions, too) / Headlamps / Trekking poles (an absolute must and lifesaver. Convinced we would not have finished without these!) / DSLR camera and GoPro / LifeStraw water filter (just in case we ran out of water) / Handheld flashlight / Extra batteries/ First-aid kit consisting of gauze, ACE wraps, bandaids, antibiotic ointment, baby powder, Aleve, Moleskin for blisters / Plastic bags for trash / Hat / Sunglasses / Bug spray / Layers just in case it got cold / Watch / Cleaning wipes / Map.
6:00 PM. Begin hike at North Kaibab Trailhead.
8:00 PM. Sophia shouts "Aah I'm so excited! Bragging rights! Do it for the Gram!"
9:30 PM. Get lost by accidentally taking the Roaring Springs trail. Find our way back on the main trail and resume hiking.
10:30 PM. Reach Cottonwood Campground where we were reassured by campers that we were on the right path.
11:00 PM. Sophia starts developing her first blisters. My toes start hurting from the descent into the Canyon.
2:15 AM. Pass Phantom Ranch lodging and arrive at Boat Beach. Take a one hour break to star gaze. Tape up our blisters.
3:30 AM. Resume hiking.
4:30 AM. Cross the Colorado River. Flash our headlamps at fellow hikers who were smart enough to wake up early and hike out of the Canyon before the morning heat set in.
5:30 AM. Drink from a running stream with the LifeStraw. Sophia falls asleep while hiking. Sunrise.
6:30 AM. A hiker lies to us and tells us we have three and half miles left to hike.
8:00 AM. Come to find out we really have six miles to go.
9:00 AM. Reach Indian Gardens for our break. Cry the rest of the four and half miles remaining.
11:55 AM. Finish our hike at Bright Angel Trailhead.
Day 3. Rest after our rim-to-rim hike. Encore Beach Club by night. Sleep!
Day 4. Buy Icy-Hot for our aching shoulders. Drive out to Page, AZ to explore Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Drive back to Vegas. Club at XS and Drais. Go back to our Airbnb and sleep for forty minutes. Buy Sophia a last-minute flight home. Return our car rental and fly back to Boston.
Safe to say this was a wonderfully successful trip. A few takeaways for me included the importance of hydration, how much color really enhance my trip experiences, and friendship.
Prior to this trip, I was terrible at hydrating. I tell my patients that they should be drinking three to four bottles of water everyday, and I realize how much of a hypocrite I am after preaching this and embarking on this trip. Even during our hike where we stopped hourly for hydration, I realize how difficult it is to drink the recommended two liters a day. While my new year's resolution (for years now) has been to drink more water, I've failed every time. Being petrified to lose my body to electrolyte losses and dehydration has made me reconsider the importance of drinking and treating my body as well as I wish for it to function.
And then there are the colors. When I reminisce on my previous trips to Mexico and Iceland, the images that are forever branded in my mind are the shades of blue I saw in the caves, beaches, and geysers. This trip was no different. The intensity of the blue emanating from the Colorado River around Horseshoe Bend was so deep, and yet so light and delicate that you could see the yellow from the limestone underneath, that I seriously got emotional. I'd been waiting to see that site for so long that it was fitting it was the last sight of our trip. The rest of the desert is so neutral, plain, brown and dusty that it's a relief to see a break of blue slicing through the landscape. Despite the 112 degree weather, I felt comfortable, relaxed, and so at peace even though there were a bunch of tourists scrambling around us to capture the perfect angle. I swear, these are the scenes I live for.
The most important thing I reflected on this trip was friendship. As you age and graduate from college, you realize how hard it is to a). make new friends and b). keep those friends. There are apps out there just for adults to mingle because it's not like you can be dropped into a environment of adults with hopes of trying to memorize everybody's name and getting invited to the hottest party anymore. Even more so, as you get to learn someone's personality, you realize if they're in or if they're out - is this someone I see myself being friends with the rest of my life? Is this person a hi-and-bye acquaintance? Or do I absolutely hate this person's guts? Finding true and lasting friendships for me is one of my weaknesses because I tend to focus on the good sides of people, and that makes the weeding out process much more extensive.
With Sophia, well . . let me just ask you this: How many people do you know have a friend who's willing to do something as stupid as hike the Grand Canyon during a heat wave from rim to rim without the proper training, and having never really hiked before, a week before departure?
I realized how hard it is to find people who are simply down. And on top of that, are genuinely good people who are smart, sensitive, caring, ambitious, and decent. It's hard to find people you would willingly spend time with for hours or days on end without feeling as if you need to do anything extra or go outside of the confines of your own true personality. If you have these friends, keep them close. They will give you the adventure of a lifetime.
With that being said, this entire trip was literally a maze! Between navigating our flights, Vegas night life, the loops and curves of the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon, I could not have imagined going through all these twists and turns with anybody but this narcoleptic (seriously, she falls asleep everywhere).
Who would you want to go through life's mazes with?
What does nice weather and a weekend off get you? A day to hike beautiful Mount Monadnock with your boyfriend and favorite third wheel (Mike really ended up third wheeling). After a fun weekend of learning how to play soccer with friends, drinks, and doing the running man challenge far too many times to count, this hike was the perfect cherry on top. It was chilly at the summit, but any opportunity to put these legs to good use is time well spent.
A couple of my friends and I decided to do a weekend ski trip. We found a cheap AirBnb location ($56 for two nights!), got discounted lift tickets off a friend's work discount, and drove three hours north to enjoy the leftover snow, scenery, and company. Because it was the end of skiing season there were barely any lines, which was nice. Got to work on snowboarding, as I just invested in a board and gear. It's exhilarating but maybe too exhilarating which is why I get super scared and carve down the mountain on my heels the whole way . . not fun, lol. Short but sweet trip. Happy birthday, Josh!
Last year I escaped the snow storm to go to a sunny place: Daytona Beach, Florida. This year I escaped the cold only to come to colder. Iceland was consistently in the thirties with high winds at times, but I'm so glad that I went.
A year ago, I never would have chosen Iceland to be my first choice to visit alone. I'm usually a big sun person. I'm on the floor so much at work that sometimes I feel like I don't ever see the sun, especially when I walk to work in the dark and go home when it's dark, or when I'm sleeping in the day time to prepare for the next night shift. I hate the fluorescent hospital lights, and so I always opt to go somewhere sunny.
So what changed my mind?
In addition to sunlight, I also love being outdoors and nature (so urban, right Sophia?). Seventy-five percent of the time I love Boston, but it's way too congested. There are too many skyscrapers, close-knit buildings, traffic, cars, and people all doing a million things at once or in a million places at once. That, on top of the work flow in the hospital, can drive me insane. So I really wanted to be somewhere with lots of space. A lot of space so I could breathe, a lot of space so that my mind could breathe. Reykjavik just happened to be the cheapest flight in the time slot I had. So I took the few days I had off from work to go to Iceland. And I'm so glad that I did.
Iceland is the first place I've wanted to visit again. Even after I visited Paris, which was my dream destination as a teenager, I knew I'd had enough of the place after I came back. Here are the few things I loved, and reasons I'd go again.
The colors. I know this sounds weird, but I didn't expect to get so much color in this trip seeing as to how I went during the winter. I assumed everything would just be white and covered in snow . . And it was, but there were instances where I saw such intense, beautiful colors that I'll never forget them. The first instance of extreme color was the second day when I was driving my car to do the Golden Circle Tour (consists of a park, geyser, waterfall, etc.). It had snowstormed wildly the days before my arrival, so acres upon acres of land were just covered in perfectly untouched snow. In addition to that, there were these beautiful mountains in the distance (I'm going to be saying beautiful a lot in this post), and had the other one or two cars not been on the same road as me, I would have thought I was the only person in the country. That's how much space there was. It was so expansive and vast - literally just a big fat stretch of perfectly powdered snow. The sun was gleaming on its surface and made the ice sparkle at times. Right on top of the mountains in the distance was this warm, periwinkle sky. Periwinkle's like this soft, lavender-purplish. I swear the snow soaked those colors right up because there was a pink hue to it as I drove past. Other times, it was this beautiful tropical tealish color. My favorite color schemes floating in the atmosphere.
The second instance of intense color was at the geyser. Iceland has a lot of geothermal pools, and one of the geysers I visited erupted pretty routinely. Right before it bubbled and exploded, the water formed with perfectly clear, cerulean, glass-looking dome that reminded me of the bubbles that form on top of the soap bottle you had when you use to blow bubbles as a kid. You know, when you dip your stick with the circle on top in the solution and yank it out to blow a bubble but to your surprise a big bubble forms around the ring on top? Okay, maybe not. Anyway, you can see it in my video very briefly below. The magic in it is that you see it for a split second, and the next it's gone.
The last instance was at the Harpa Music Hall. The design reminded me a lot of the Rainbow Fish. Have you ever read it? It's a children's book about a fish with colorful, shiny scales. The glass made up a beehive sort of network and the ceiling had a scaly, mirror-like appearance, which you can also see in the video below. I also took a shit ton of pictures of it above. Parts of the glass changed color periodically and in waves, and I thought what a wonderful way to epitomize music through design. Because the way the colors were changing and flowing, it looked as if the building itself was playing the music.
The landscape. In my short time, I was able to see waterfalls, walk between two continents (Thingvellir National Park), hike a mountain, and sit by the sea. I could only imagine what it looks like in the summer, although Iceland in the winter is truly a winter wonderland. One of the things I loved the most was that I constantly felt surrounded by these big mountains in the distance (a reason I took so much driving footage). It made you feel small, but also grounded and connected with your environment. Like you were just one small piece of this one city, and that that city actually belonged to something bigger which was the mountain's land. My favorite thing was waking up early and taking my rental car on the highway to try a new breakfast spot because I was driving towards the mountain. And when you're driving inland or south, you're constantly cradled between these large peaks on both sides. No pun intended.
The challenge. Another reason I chose Iceland is because it was totally out of my comfort zone. No cell phone, no knowledge of the language, no real experience with the wilderness (I've never even gone camping), and it scared me. Particularly, the idea of being trapped in a blizzard all by myself in the dark on an island scared the shit out of me. I had to use my judgment and change my plans a few times because it was either getting too dark too quickly, the winds were too strong, or the roads were too slippery even for my four wheel drive. Before I rented my car, the agency member told me 1). It was still very icy out 2). Don't go south because of sandstorms followed by a picture she showed me of a car completely demolished from gravel and sandstorm and 3). If your door is open and the wind is heavy make sure you hold onto it because she's seen the door fly right off before. I cried on the inside and ten minutes into driving, I was hit with a snow shower and panicked. I thought I was going to die in Iceland. They say wait five minutes if you don't like the weather in Iceland. Luckily, that was the worse it got for me (aside from getting a parking ticket and skidding on the road twice) and I felt very fortunate. I drove by a car that flipped over on the highway and nearly wet myself. But I'm glad I drove through Iceland alone, and knowing that I did it alone gives me confidence that I am 1). Totally capable of traveling alone and 2). I'm not a stereotypical Asian female driver. I have a nasty parallel park too, if I do say so myself.
Apparently I'm very bad at using GoPros. Sorry, but enjoy!
GoPro - my baby cousin, Nathan
Music - "St. Clarity" by The Paper Kites
It's been a while since I've traveled. My last adventure was in Daytona Beach, Florida back in March and I was itching to explore a new place. Mike and I had never gone anywhere on a plane together, and we really waned to go on vacation before I transitioned to the oncology unit and he applied to schools. We wanted an international place that was obviously affordable. So Cancún it was, but we didn't want the college spring break experience.
We arrived in Cancún pretty late. We had trouble renting a car, considering the majority of the cars there are manual drive. We managed to find an automatic pretty last minute after much frustration and struggled to find our AirBnb. *Tip: use the offline Google maps function and download the area before you go. I underestimated Mexican traffic and it took us far too long to find our first home. But once we got to the guest house, called the Sak Nah Guest House, we were welcomed by our first English speaking friends and got our first taste of a Mexican style home. Our host, Benoit, even helped us order the best tacos we had ever had after traveling the whole day. They were chorizo tacos topped with pineapple and this spicy, green hot sauce that tasted amazing. Mike doesn't even do spicy, but he sweated the whole time we were in Mexico eating the sauce even though it killed him.
We drove our rental car two hours into the mainland and went to Chichen Itza. The weather suggested rain and isolated thunderstorms our entire trip, but we really lucked out and all of our adventures had beautiful weather. You really have to take Cancún weather day by day. It was sunny but mild when we got to the Mayan ruins. I think the coolest part about coming to places with architecture is imagining the building process. The temples were man made structures compiled together by hand. They were no means "perfect" by social guidelines today. No clean cut curves, gloss, or shine. But the preliminary foundation that they had back then served their purposes simply. It was nice to see everything down to its bare bones.
By day three, we were in Puerto Morelos in another Guest House, called Casitas Kinsol. This was the most perfect little hut! I know it might sound unorthodox but after finding AirBnb, traveling has become more enjoyable because I realize how important your temporary home is to your travel experience. I know people usually opt for the cheaper route for obvious reasons - there is the option of hostels if you're on a budget, and by all means hostels provide a whole other type of experience. But the affordable, unique, eccentrically-decorated, local homes I've been able to find through AirBnb are truly hidden gems. You don't need luxury to have a wholesome experience. Casitas Kinsol is filled with lively, lush plants and trees, pets, and specially designed rooms. Mike and I stayed in a mezzanine room with an upper loft and additional bottom floor, all Mexican style - radiant colors, tiles, and all.
On day three we went to the cenotes, which are natural wells. One was outdoor, called Cenote Azul, and one was indoor, called Cenote Dos Ojos. The water was such a strong cerulean color in both places, so crystal clear you could see your toes and the rocks on the bottom. We snorkeled and got natural pedicures aka the fish nibbled at our feet and tickled the shit out of us. At night, we roamed the central plaza, checked out a local cafe, and tried to spot out constellations amongst the blanket of stars out on the dock.
We woke up and saw the sun rise by the ocean. Then we drove out to Playa del Carmen to return our car rental, and in the mean time were approached by vendors who gave us a good deal for exploring Cozumel Island. We took a ferry out to Cozumel (I got sea sick for the first time, it was terrible) and when arrived rented a scooter to explore the island. There's no public transportation on this small island, and there is only one main road about 60 kilometers long that encircles the city. Mike learned to drive it pretty quickly and we checked in to our last destination, a studio apartment a block from the beach for less than $30 USD, which also had the friendliest dog (we met a lot of dogs and dog lovers in Mexico). Then we beach hopped! First Playa Palancar where our first bike broke down because I told Mike to floor it (some hotel workers graciously allowed us to use their phone to call the rental company and they met us out in the middle of no where with a brand new bike with a full tank of gas), then Punta Sur where we got the tastiest nachos, and last, Playa Bonita. We ended up having to drive back to our apartment in a rainstorm, and rain drops hurt at 60-mph or whatever speed we were going. But it was definitely an experience. I felt like I was one of the storm chasers you see on tv.
We woke up early to return our scooter and boarded the ferry back to the mainland to catch our flight back. I had been dying to visit this local coffee shop the day prior which had the best ratings and was fortunate enough to snag an iced coffee five minutes before our ferry was supposed to depart. The owner opened early and gave us a quick coffee tour and made me one his most popular drinks. The cafe was called Coz Coffee Roasting Company and it had the zestiest blend infused with molasses, cinnamon, and I forget what else. It was so good I bought a batch of beans to bring back to Boston.
Our trip was full of nice, hard-working people trying to make a living. It reminded me a lot of Vietnam. Not many people we ran to spoke English, but they were eager to help with whatever tools they had despite the language barrier. I approached them expecting to get ripped off, but looking back, everything we got was appropriately priced. Their hot sauce was humbling - I thought I could handle spice, but let me tell ya . . one of their chillies was so spicy it made me dizzy and I couldn't stand up (that's when I got sea sick, too). Despite our fun time there, there were also things we hated seeing, for example, young children struggling to sell coconuts on the side of the street every time we slowed down at a speed bump. Old men, retirement age, hustling tourists to eat at their restaurant so they could make a living. Other children stuck in a restaurant all day helping their families make a living, not being able to enjoy a "regular" childhood like so many of us can do here in the states. Stray dogs, lots of stray dogs, sleeping under cars and sniffing out trash bags for food. And this was only over the span of a few days.
I guess it goes to show with the beautiful also comes the ugly, but regardless of the place lies this idea of "stubborn happiness." I was once told Vietnam was one of the happiest countries in the world, which was hard to believe a long time ago. But I've now become a believer, and I owe my commitment to this idea to the concept of this "stubborn happiness." I was starting to explore this concept on my own, but it really came to fruition when I watched an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert (I know, I'm obsessed with her ideas). It is the idea of being happy despite the bullshit that gets thrown your way, choosing to live on the brighter side despite the dark times that come. It's really easy for anyone to be happy when nothing is stopping you, but how easy it to be happy when bad things happen? In debt? Someone dying? Trouble at work?
Being in Mexico really helped reaffirm my idea of constantly maintaining my own stubborn happiness.
Mike and I had the day off from work so we decided to go to Mount Watatic in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. It's about an hour and a half driving from the Fenway area in Boston. Short and sweet hike and the view is spectacular for the small amount of time you need to put in to reach the top. I picked red leaves along the way to write on because I felt like it. And Mike wore an orange shirt and yellow shorts, so he practically blended in with the trees. Easy hike if you aren't really athletic . . or out of shape . . or still need to catch your breath like me even after running for weeks to increase your speed . .
In February of this past year, I was so sick of the cold weather I impulsively bought a plane ticket to Daytona, Florida to be in some sunshine. My round-trip ticket was less than $300. I got a car rental when I was there and booked a 2-night stay with a local host through AirBnb. I ended up spending way more money that I had anticipated because when I'm in vacation mode, finances don't matter. I guess I had a good time, though.
Not much to say about this trip besides the fact that it was much-needed, I wish I had gone when the Daytona 500 was live, and that driving on the beach there is dope. Other things I did:
I can't remember much else. I just remember it was bomb.